Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow...Just Don't Let It Collect On Your Roof!

You can imagine the scene: sparkling white roofs dot the landscape on a beautiful winter's morning. It is a gorgeous sight to behold...until you hear the creaking, groaning and crashing sounds of a roof giving way under the weight of the snow. Snow may seem light and fluffy when it falls, but the weight it can exert is tremendous; the average roof on a 2,000 square foot building can accumulate over twenty tons of snow during a heavy snowfall. Here are a few ways to protect your building by preventing and clearing dangerous snow accumulations:

Prevent snow accumulation

Though you don't have control over nature, you can make decisions that will keep snow accumulation from becoming a problem. Here are some ways to prevent snow from accumulating in the first place:

  • Roof material - metal roofs provide a dramatically improved resistance to snow accumulation by allowing it to slide off harmlessly. You may consider installing a metal roof if you live in an area with consistently heavy snowfall. Not only do metal roofs allow snow to slide off, they are also more durable and long-lasting. Metal roofs are much more expensive to install, but the extra investment will pay for itself in time.
  • Gutters - keeping your gutters clear is an important step in preventing snow accumulation. Gutters that are filled with debris, leaves and frozen water will not allow melting snow to efficiently drain; this can lead to re-freezing of the water and cause a situation known as ice damming. Ice damming makes snow accumulation even worse, because it will build a barrier that holds the snow on the roof.

Clean your gutters when autumn begins, especially if you have nearby trees. Thoroughly wash out any debris, and spray the interior of gutter channels and downspouts with a silicone-based lubricant. This will allow snow to slide easier when it enters these areas. Continue to monitor your gutters after the first winter precipitation incident. Even a minor coating of ice can lead to thicker accumulations, especially if your area experiences consistent freezing temperatures.

  • Heating cables - another solution to preventing snow accumulation is to use roof heating cables, sometimes called deicing cables. These cables run the length of the edge of your roof, and they emit heat which helps melts accumulating snow and ice. While this isn't the only answer for snow accumulation, their presence can be part of a total solution to keep your roof clear.

What to do when the snow comes

Preventing snow accumulation by implementing some of the above ideas can be helpful, but when it begins falling, you also need to be prepared to take action. Here are some solutions that can help clear the snow from your roof before it becomes a hazard:

  • Snow rakes - these implements are particularly helpful for clearing snow from roofs. As the name indicates, they are long-handled rakes that can be used to pull snow from the roof. There are a number of different models available, and they generally sell from between fifty and one hundred dollars. 

You do need to exercise caution with snow rakes, however. Be sure that you don't damage your shingles while scraping. Remember that you do not need to remove all the snow for your efforts to be effective. Also, you must be careful not to make contact with any power lines while using your rake. Steer well clear of them, and should you lose your grip while raking anywhere in close proximity to a power line, never attempt to grab the rake.

  • Calcium chloride - this chemical is a low-cost, fairly non-toxic deicing agent. It can be safely used for removing ice on a number of surfaces, rooftops included. The pellet form is easier to use since it can be tossed on your roof from the ground. It reacts with moisture and generates heat that will melt snow. Though it is safe for use with plants and trees, keep calcium chloride away from children and pets as it can cause gastric distress if ingested.

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